‘Forest Life’ by Federico Falco, translated by Jenifer Croft

‘Forest Life’, an Argentinian short story, is an ode to the pine forest and flora and fauna where Wutrich and his daughter, Mabel live. When their home is threatened, Mabel is under pressure to marry a Japanese man, Saikoti, who grows flowers in greenhouses on the plains, a day’s drive from the mountains where she and her father live. Wutrich moves into a nearby eldercare facility, where he longingly reminisces about the life and environment he has lost: “Four hundred and fifty thousand pines, he said. We transported them on horseback. And then, all these years… All those pines up there, he said, growing so slowly you wouldn’t even notice it.” Mabel herself finds, in her new home amongst other Japanese immigrants, her eyes becoming “lost in that ground with a single tree”. Over the course of the story, a subdued relationship develops between Mabel and Sakoiti. They come to recognise that their union was only possible because they were both displaced, through deforestation and immigration, to live in a new environment. Falco uses precise descriptions of the landscape to reflect his characters internal experiences. Flowers and trees – nature’s profound beauty, cyclical deterioration and rejuvenation, and rootedness – mirror the character’s interior lives, their memories, and aspirations. He examines the stillness of human existence, its stoicism and how minute details and private inner worlds connected to nature, reveal a sophisticated philosophical way of living and being. 

First published in English in A Perfect Cemetery, Charco Press, 2021